For the last four generations, the Kelders family is active with entertainment of people, but the third generation in line, Willem Kelders has archieved the higest possible level of entertainment for this moment.. My grandfather, Wim Kelders was a businessman as everyone else in our family, Willem explains. He produced hand-made cigars for his profession. My grandmother found business in buying and selling fabrics. The products were mostly sold on the countryside, but often when money was not direct available, the cigars and fabrics were swapped for a variety of products. Often obsolete stuff of the farmland, or even scrap metal. These materials were then resold again. The start of the business was in 1938. Not the most easy time, as we know now…
By doing so he made his living, and he also bought and sold some mechanical organs, that could made some money in exploitation. This resulted in a business in which mechanical music was involved.
Willem Kelders father, Jan Kelders was born at Boxmeer as the second son of Wim Kelders. There were 9 children in the family. He went on like his father as a kind of wheeler-dealer, by buying and selling what was available at the moment. He was forced by his parents to learn a decent profession. Jan didn’t like the cigarproduction, so he became a butcher. This would bring in quite a lot of commissionwork in autumn. He had more feeling in a profession as a musician, and that was what he decided to do. Jan became a professional musician. His main instrument was percussion. Next to that, he played also guitar and bass in several bands and entertainment groups. Directly after WWII, the annual fairgrounds had a demand for entertainment bands. The showmen offered transport of the instuments, plus a place to sleep. In return Jan helped with building up and taking down of the rides. During this part-time showmanslife, he got involved and seriously interested in the fairgroundorgans that circulated among the showmen.
Jan has travelled as a musician until his son Willem was born in 1959. After that he realized this kind of life was too difficult to combine with a familylife. So he started another business with a cateringvan and a permanent saleskiosk on the side of his house in Cuijk.
This was only for a short period as in 1964, the complete kiosk was demolished by a fire.
Directly afterwards, he rented the bicycle storage of the Dutch railways at Nijmegen for a short while. This was sold off again in 10 months time, as there was too much staff required to run this business. Directly after this, Jan picked up the old business and started buying and selling all kind of goods. In the beginning mainly antiques. Later expanded to house- and business clearances plus obsolete stuff of the government. Of course he tried to buy and sell some mechanical organs in different sizes When he acquired some larger instruments in the early 1970’s, he discovered the demand for these instruments and started to rent out some of them.
Its 1978 when Willem Kelders buys the company of his father. He started to do technical work and maintenance on the organs. Also he managed to buy new high quality handturned instruments in Germany, which were imported into Holland and sold off again
Also other people of the organscene were helped with the sales of materials, parts etc. Famous were the sales of the new designed and constructed punchmachines for the production of organbooks. These reliable machines went all over the globe, and are all still in working order today, and much sought after.. Also new trailers were designed and built. The first one was made on a shipyard. The later ones directly in the workshop in Cuijk that has been expanded several times. The knowledge for these trailers would become very useful in the future.
Willem started travelling and found a new market in the UK. Since 1975, he travels several times a year to visit shows and steamrallies. England does feel as a second home for the Kelders family.. They know how to entertain the English visitors at shows & events, and are successful in this.
At the end of 1989, Willem married Monique, and three years later they move the house and complete business, to the yard of Willem’s parents in law at Breugel nr. Eindhoven. The accommodation of the business in Cuijk did become too small, and could not expanded anymore. In Breugel they were able to buy a whosalebusiness in mainly German China. This business was based on export, and proved to be a good combination with the rentals of fairgroundorgans
Several customers wanted Willem to expand in attractions and rides. This became the start of RBA rentals
December the 14th 1996, became a very black day. The complete company burnt down. In less than no time, there was absolutely nothing left. . All 10 organs inside the buildings were lost, as were all attractions plus the china wholesale, plus lorrie and trailers. Nothing could be salvaged.
But as there was no personal damage or injuries, the young couple went on. They had to. In less than one week, they were already serving customers again, This time with borrowed materials. The rebuilt of the business and the buildings started immediately.
Around July 1997 two of the three buildings were finished. The chinawholesale had to be stopped. In this building, Willem found a cardealer as a customer who started his business there. This should last for the following next 16 years.
In Willem’s own business, he started with some rides and organs again, plus he expanded into the rentalservice of jukeboxes and partymaterials. Everything had to be done by themselves, and was realized by working day and night. This was necessary as Willem & Monique had .already two young sons, Rik (1990) & Bas.(1991). There was simply no choice to be made. It was necessary.
At the end of the summer 1997, the Kelders family is back in the UK on their usual spot on the Great Dorset Steam Fair. Here they made the decision, to realize the largest travelling concertorgan ever made. Willem has been present at the introduction of the Centenary in the UK in 1984, and he knew already then directly, this would become the kind of organ he would rally one day.
The order for such a large instrument went to a Dutch organbuilder, but had to be cancelled a few years later due to unexpected and unforeseen circumstances. Early 2001 a meeting with Johnny Verbeeck was arranged, and within less than 15 minutes there was already a serious deal.
In the following years the combination of Johnny Verbeeck and RBA rentals of the Kelders family, realised the largest transportable concertorgan ever built. At the company of Willem Kelders a large purpose built trailer was made, complete with all hydraulic systems to realise a perfect presentation. Also pre-worked parts for the organ were finished off here Johnny Verbeeck and his team, built over a two year period, a huge mechanical organ, second to none! This was “the Victory” The name was given because the Kelders family did overcome the nasty fire of December 1996.
Even during the early heydays of mechanical organs, an instrument similar to the 118 key Victory concertorgan, has never been built before.
With this massive mechanical organ, Willem wants to show and convince people this is not an ordinairy organ, and cannot be compared with any other instrument in existance. There are no limitations as often thought. There’s no music around that cannot be played on a quality mechanical organ of the right size. The list of examples could become very long, but think of a tribute to Queen, the Police, Michael Jackson or Barbara Streisand. But also Glenn Miller, George Gershwin or the marvelous masters of light classical music as Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Offenbach, Strauss or even Wagner. Some of the later arrangements do contain work of Guns ‘n Roses, the Who and Led Zeppelin. If this is all done in the right way, the latest charthits are no real problem anymore for the large disposition of the Victory.
Just a quick index of the disposition of the Victory:
118 keys in use playing bookmusic
128 keys in use when playing midi
1260 playing organpipes with several registers brass
23 automatic interchangeable registers on bass, accompagniments, melody, countermelody and third melody.
7 fixed registers
A large percussionset, with double bass and snare drums, double cymbals, triangles and castagnette sets. Plus a special concertdrum. A wooden xylophone on the melodysection, A metal xylophone (Glockenspiel) and special low voiced brass tubular bells on the third medlody.
The airconsumption of the Victory is 35000 ltrs of pressed air a minute, at a pressure of 240 mm watergauge.
The organ is completed with a massive façade in traditional style, just fitting the purpose built trailer. On the top are two oil paintings of Dineke Boektje, A Dutch artist and close friend of the Kelders family. She realized two large traditional English Fairground scenes for the Victory.
The introduction of the Victory was at the annual organfestival at the Open Air museum at Arnhem in May 2003..
The appearance of the Victory was for many people a complete surprise, although quite some rumours did get around the scene before the event.
Willem has spread some information around and invitations did come from Germany, Suisse, France and of course the UK. The real enthousiasts of this organ, were willing to travel long distances to see and hear this magnificent instrument.
Directly after the Victory, the Kelders family decided to have a second quality organ built by Johnny Verbeeck. This had to replace a smaller organ in the fleet. It had to be a street/danceorgan, but it should fit in the rear side of the Scania 124, the towing lorry of the Victory. This mechanical organ had to be large enough to entertain, both outdoors and indoors and small enough to fit inside the lorry. For the presentation, the Locomotion is wheeled outside on the lorries taillift. There was one major requirement: It should be the higest possible quality. This instrument did become the traditional Verbeeck scale with an extra countermelody. All necessary street and dancehallvoices were built in this 73 key organ. The Locomotion was built and finished early 2005. Again Dineke Boektje did produce a beautiful oilpainting with the name and a working scene of the Locomotion railway engine of the Beamish heritage museum in the north of the UK.
Index of the disposition of the Locomotion:
73 keys in use playing bookmusic
83 keys in use when playing midi
300 playing organpipes
11 automatic interchangeable registers on melody and countermelody
4 fixed registers
A basic percussionset, with bassdrum, and snare drum, cymbal, triangle plus woodblocks and a rhumba shaker. A wooden xylophone on the melodysection.
The airconsumption of the Locomotion is 4500 ltrs of pressed air a minute, at a pressure of 180 mm watergauge.
One remarkable day during the winter in the workshop, Willem discovered by chance it was possible to synchronise both the Victory and the Locomotion. This brought quickly the idea to synchronise both organs with matching videoimages. By now both sons Rik & Bas got more involved into the business. They started around Christmas 2005 with a rough idea to work out. Rik started with the construction of the hardware, and Bas did do the software and editing work. This resulted in some series of trial and error, but in July 2006 the first synchronized show with a combination of two mechanical organs and a videoscreen was a fact. The idea was to run this show five times during the first year. It became in reality over 20 eveningshows. The revival of the early bioscopeshow on the fairground was travelling again.
Over the following years the show did improve, and was made more stable. Bas graduated as a IT engineer and Rik as mechanical engineer. This was very useful for the future existence of these specialized performances.
Everyone does have a specialized task in the company, and that’s the base of the flexibility and strength. Both boys are from their graduation full-time involved.
Rik did manage to get all necessary HGV and trailer licences in a short time, and in 2011 the finished Rhapsody dancehallorgan was starting to travel with Rik & Bas. They also built a second side show, and it was decided to merge in the Rhapsody with screen into the Victory & Locomotion show for the largest events in the UK.
At the Great Dorset Steam Fair 2011, the first synchronized shows with three organs and two videoscreens were presented. There were no empty seats…………………
It turned out to be necessary to have another lorry in front of the Rhapsody, as the old one couldn’t handle the load anymore. This became a nearly identical Scania as in front of the Victory,. The latest Scania has been overhauled by Rik. The lorry was bought as a chassis with sleepercab. Rik built a BDF lift-off system and folding taillift on this chassis, complete with galvanized cellar boxes. By the use of the BDF system we can exchange the complete box quite easily. There are now five different boxes in use. Also in combination with a boxtrailer, this vehicle has proven to be extremely versatile in use, both for the rental services and the international work with fairgroundorgans.
During the year 2011, one of the oldest customers of Willem, did come along with a request. He wanted to have a huge display with an organ inside, on the second floor of one of his brandnew gardencentre’s. This challenge was taken by the Kelders’ family and they came with the idea of a vintage looking travelling bioscope show, with an organ in front. The whole set had to go on a 5 ft. stage, on a level it could be seen from the staircase below. It would give a massive “Cathedral” effect. Another Verbeeck organ , a used one this time, was acquired of a retired showman in the UK. This organ had to become the middle of this display. The complete setting had a size of 26 ft width and 24 ft. high.
Rik developed a heavy construction system that would become our standard. It works like a scaffolding system, but in higher quality galvanized steel and couplings. The latest Verbeeck organ turned out to be too loud for indoor use on this location, so the decision was made to run the music in another way.
Bas developed an interactive system, where the customers and visitors of the gardencentre could make the choice of music by a touchscreen in front of the setting.
This display turned out to be a huge success, and from there a new branch in the business developed. A second set was built with a massive concertorgan as theme. “The Symphony”. During the year 2015 a third set was built. “The Wintergardens” A Victorian looking manor style building with a seperate organ in front.
For the Wintergardens we developed a special light system with specialized couplings and connectors to the existing framesystem. All walls and decorationparts have a maximum size of 2 metres, and fit in special palletframes. These fit easily in the lorries and in the shopelevators. Overall it means a lot less handling, easier storage, and less chance of damages.
More decorations, displays and animations are in preparation at this very moment, also for smaller locations.
On the second of June 2015, Johnny Verbeeck passed away, far too early after a serious illness,
On the sixth of June there was a gettogether in Brecht (Belgium), to celebrate and remember his life.
Several good speeches were alternated with music of The Victory on CD recordings.
Among the choses music were the favourite pieces of Johnny, like “Music was my first love” of john Miles. This was an extremely impressive day for everyone whom was present. For us it means the best skilled organbuilder has passed away. His music will live forever.